How To Identify The 5 Most Common Vehicle Transmission Problems
Luckily, many of these transmission problems can be diagnosed by having a basic understanding of what signs and symptoms to look for during your daily commute.
- The Car Does Not Move When You Attempt To Accelerate Or Your Car Struggles To Accelerate
What does it mean? One or more components in your transmission has failed or worn out. This failure can be due to high mileage, loss of transmission fluid, or improper use/abuse of your vehicle.
- You Smell Something Funny
What does it mean? Your transmission has overheated due to intense use and fluid breakdown. You may smell something “burning” this is typically the smell of burning fluid from a leak. Overheating fluid can be caused by either low fluid level or by using the wrong type/brand of transmission fluid.
Be sure to check your fluid levels often and ask your mechanic which transmission fluid is right for you.
- You Notice A Dark, Burnt-Smelling Fluid Leaking From Your Car Or Your Fluids are Low
What does it mean? Your car is losing automatic transmission fluid (ATF). ATF is vital to the health of your car’s transmission as it cleans, lubricates, and prevents the engine from seizing. Leaks can be caused by physical damage (running things over), or in some states, corrosion, typically from harsh weather.
- Your Car Refuses To Go Into Gear Or Your Car Is Shaking Or Grinding When Going Into Gear
What does it mean? Typically, your car should shift and accelerate smoothly. If you notice any shaking, grinding, or odd noises while shifting your car, you could be experiencing problems with your car’s gears. As the problem gets worse, your car may “jerk” when shifting and will take time to “wiggle” into first gear.
- Your Vehicle’s Check Engine Light Is On And Flashing
What does it mean? A flashing check engine light is an indicator of an issue that has occurred somewhere in your car and could indicate any number of issues. If you notice any of the above issues your flashing light is more than likely a result of transmission issues.
Bring your car to your mechanic to be inspected. They will be able to look at this check engine light for a code that your car produces and will give you advice on what steps to take next.+
Tips for Preventing a Transmission Breakdown
The moment you start noticing something out of the ordinary with your car, it’s time to start considering the problem and finding a way to fix it. It’s great if your problem can be sorted without much trouble, but even better not to have a problem in the first place. This is especially true when it comes to your vehicle’s transmission, as this can be one of the more specialized parts to repair. Looking after your transmission is important, so don’t neglect it. The best way to do this is to catch problems early.
Here are 12 tips that could help you avoid a potential breakdown:
- Check your transmission fluid level, color and smell regularly.
Your fluid should be checked roughly every 1,600 kilometres. The fluid should also be changed every 80,000 kilometres or every other year, depending on which comes first.
- Use the correct fluid.
Types of fluid vary from vehicle to vehicle. Some newer fluids may be more expensive but they will likely improve the protection of the transmission, which makes it worth the expense.
- Don’t overfill your transmission.
Follow your manual very carefully when checking and adding fluid. Overfilling can cause the fluid to foam, which can lead to erratic shifting, loss of internal lubrication and potential transmission damage.
- Avoid excess heat in your transmission.
Heat is a serious enemy of transmission health. Research suggests that 90% of transmission failures are caused by heat. If you reduce the heat back to normal operating temperatures, you increase the life span of your vehicle.
- Don’t tow in overdrive.
Look for a button on the dash or steering column that turns overdrive off. If your vehicle doesn’t have this button, if probably has the overdrive position on the shift indicator. Pull the shift lever from overdrive to the drive position before towing.
- Install an auxiliary cooler.
An auxiliary cooler can save your transmission from the damage done by excess heat. When properly installed they may help your transmission to run 30% to 50% cooler when towing. This investment could save you hundreds of dollars.
- Don’t overload your vehicle.
All that weight from towing makes the transmission work too hard so it overheats, which causes real damage. If you do a lot of towing, consider the point 6.
- Allow your vehicle to warm up thoroughly on cold mornings.
Warming up the engine/transmission for about 30 seconds to a minute before driving is best practice. After that take it easy until the car is actually warm.
- Avoid rocking between gears if your vehicle becomes stuck in mud or on ice.
If you must rock, do so as gently as possible and make sure the wheels have stopped moving before each gear change. This will drastically reduce the strain placed on the transmission.
- Do not perform high performance starts, or spinning of your tires except in emergencies.
- Use your emergency brake when parking on an incline.
This reduces stress on the parking pawl (pin) and linkage.
- Play it safe; get any potential trouble looked at promptly by a professional.
If you think a problem is developing (say you notice sudden changes to the way your car drives, or any changes to the way your transmission works, such as trouble changing gears or a delay before the gear seems to shift), but you aren’t sure, get it checked out by an expert.
Differences Between Manual and Auto Transmission Repair
It’s important to know the differences in maintenance between automatic and manual transmissions if you are not familiar. In general, manual transmissions are a bit less expensive to repair, and they are built to last, with many people reporting a decade or more before the clutch needs to be replaced. Automatic transmissions also last a long time, but their fluid flushes and change-overs require more attention and occur more often, so they require more maintenance.
Fluid leaks are a common issue with automatic transmissions, but not so much with manual devices. This is because of the way that fluids become exposed or seals that can be compromised as a matter of course, when you are working with high-pressure systems that continuously operate.
If you are experiencing manual transmission problems and all your prior experience is with automatic transmissions, then you need to realize that it’s far more likely you will experience a slipping clutch or other symptoms from the list above rather than a large-scale fluid leak. That’s simply the nature of the design differences between the two.
Shifty Business – Gear Shift Trouble
Car gear shift problems can send any driver into a panic, assuming their transmission is to blame. Yet, there are many other reasons that cause trouble when shifting gears. For example, if the catalytic converter or exhaust is clogged, the engine may experience a back-pressure problem, making it difficult for the transmission to change gears. An expert technician will need to perform an inspection to confirm the exact cause of the shifting problem. Shifting problems can also be caused by:
- Faulty interlock switch. This is the apparatus that requires the brake pedal to be engaged in order to shift from park to drive or reverse. If shifting from park is troublesome, a faulty interlock may be to blame.
- Shift Cable or Linkage may be corroded or coated with thick grease. Moisture, grease, and dirt can accumulate in or around the interlock and brake light switches and shift cable, making shifting troublesome. This usually occurs when the engine and transmission are After it and the surrounding components warm up, the gunk may become softer allowing the vehicle to shift from park.
- Low transmission fluid combined with sluggish feeling and hard shifts. Transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your transmission, acting as a lubricant and coolant to keep internal components cool and well-oiled. Transmission fluid flushes are imperative to the life of your transmission.
- Your vehicle’s internal computer may be malfunctioning. A car’s computer is responsible for communicating with the transmission to shift from park to drive or reverse and when to shift while moving down the road.
If you notice gears slipping, you may, in fact, have transmission trouble. Transmissions are designed to shift gears either manually by the driver or automatically. If the transmission is unexpectedly slipping in and out of gear, the transmission needs immediate attention. If this occurs, for your safety, do not drive the vehicle and have it immediately towed to a professional.
What Does the Transmission Do?
The transmission is one of the hardest-working devices in your car. The transmission sends power from the engine to the wheels through something called a driveshaft, and the machinery is often under great pressure and heat.
The cost to repair a transmission is usually more expensive than just about any other repair your vehicle might require. Therefore, keeping an eye on potential transmission problems may save you money in the long run as long as you catch the problem early.
Bad Transmission Symptoms
Look out for these warning signs and symptoms of a bad transmission.
- Sluggish Transmission
- Slipping Gears
- Jerking Upon Acceleration
- Transmission Slipping
- Transmission Fluid Low or Dirty
- Noises During Acceleration & Deceleration
- Burning Smell
- Check Engine Light Registering a Transmission Error Code